Home > Schools, social justice, social media > What Schools are Really Blocking When They Block Social Media

What Schools are Really Blocking When They Block Social Media

By S. CRAIG WATKINS January 30, 2012 – 7:00am from DML Central

The debates about schools and social media are a subject of great public and policy interests.  In reality, the debate has been shaped by one key fact: the almost universal decision by school administrators to block social media.  Because social media is such a big part of many students social lives, cultural identities, and informal learning networks schools actually find themselves grappling with social media everyday but often from a defensive posture—reacting to student disputes that play out over social media or policing rather than engaging student’s social media behaviors.

Education administrators block social media because they believe it threatens the personal and emotional safety of their students.  Or they believe social media is a distraction that diminishes student engagement and the quality of the learning experience.  Schools also block social media to prevent students from accessing inappropriate content.  I have often wondered what are schools really blocking when they block social media. Working in a high school this year has given me added perspective.

In one class my graduate assistant and I are working with a teacher in a Technology Applications class.  Our goal is to reinvent the classroom and, more important, the learning that takes place.  We structured the learning to be autonomous, self-directed, creative, collaborative, and networked. We decided to let the student teams pick which digital media project they wanted to pursue.  Some students elected to team together to produce a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that target teens.  These students liked the idea of using digital media to tell compelling stories about the challenges of teen life.  Other students wanted to produce short narratives.  They were excited about creating worlds, characters, and narrative dilemmas that allowed their artistic identities to flourish.

In one of our first activities we selected a sample of teen produced PSAs and narrative shorts for the students to study.  We asked them to view and critique the different styles, aesthetics, narrative strategies, and technical approaches to digital media storytelling.  The teacher posted the links to the videos online and provided the instructions.  Suddenly one student raised her hand.  She could not access some of the videos.  Another student raised her hand.  She was having the same problem.  At least two of the videos that we asked them to critique were posted to YouTube.  The teacher and I had overlooked the fact that YouTube was blocked.  A few students used proxy servers to access the videos, a typical workaround in this school.  As we struggled to figure out a way to proceed with the learning activity it was clear we needed to recalibrate the design of the class.

Read more: What Schools are Really Blocking When They Block Social Media

  1. January 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Reblogged this on My Social Circle.

  2. February 8, 2012 at 9:45 am

    very true, every word on the article is true and important

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